Dueling Nigerian papers clash over whether Lagos has been sunk by rivals

A BOLD expose by the Lagos Guardian on what's wrong with the Port of Apapa, Lagos has been challenged by a stiff defence by its rival the Abuja Leadership newspaper

29 March 2019 - 19:00

A BOLD expose by the Lagos Guardian on what's wrong with the Port of Apapa, Lagos has been challenged by a stiff defence by its rival the Abuja Leadership newspaper.

The Guardian said it had received 'confirmation that Nigeria no longer had busiest container port in Africa. That title now belongs to Lome Port in Togo'.

To this the Abuja Leadership replied that the head of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) disagreed.

'Despite the feat achieved by the Ghana and Lome ports, Nigeria seaport still remained preferred destination for cargoes in the sub-region.

Said NCS comptroller General of NCS Hameed Ali: 'Out of the cargoes that are meant for the West and Central Africa coming from around the world, 80 per cent of the cargoes comes to Nigeria while other countries share the remaining 20 per cent and distributed among themselves.

'So, how can they be a hub? Also, Nigerian ports are becoming efficient by the day and we are attracting cargoes from other neighbouring ports. The moment we get our infrastructure right and get our connectivity right and tackle insecurity on the waterways, then that's where we see the real hub,' he said.

'But data from Dynamar, a Dutch maritime intelligence and consulting firm revealed that Lome Port upstaged the Lagos largely as a result of wide-ranging implemented reforms, as well as container traffic. Consequently, the port's earnings have grown more than three-fold since 2013,' said the Guardian.

'In contrast, things have not only stagnated at Apapa Port, which is Nigeria largest port, but are also slowly going from bad to worse, especially as the port is bogged down by inefficiency, corruption induced by redtape, and age-long bottlenecks, which have successfully paved way for slow port operations, leading to perpetual congestion.

More worrisome is the loss of cargo may well be permanent, as rival ports adopt policies that lure importers away from Nigeria to meet landlocked West African demand,' said the Lagos newspaper.

The Guardian also said Benin, Ghana, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire are considering steps to bolster their fortunes, by way of attracting cargoes, particularly transit cargoes their way.

Cotonou Port, the closest to Nigeria, has been the biggest beneficiary their cargoes through and having them smuggled into Nigeria by back roads.

As a way of attracting more Nigerian business to its ports, the Benin Ministry of Transport also approved the reduction of the amount charged for vehicles in transit.

As a result of this reduction, the price to clear a car discharged in Cotonou in transit to Nigeria was slashed from CFA399,920 (US$690) to CFA 290,000.

This tariff reduction also led to diversion of more vehicles to Benin Republic, while the volumes in Lagos remains low because Nigeria's tariff on imported vehicles remain high at 35 per cent import duty, and another 35 per cent surcharge amounting to a total of 70 per cent - the highest in the world.

While this development effectively discourages the use of Nigerian ports, most West African countries are forming alliances and partnerships in addition to the far-reaching reforms they are undertaking.

For Ghana, the Tema Port, which used to be second after Lagos for years, is now third in the region with 956,400 TEU handled in 2017. The Ghanaian port is ahead of Abidjan (663,600 TEU), Dakar (570,500 TEU) and Cotonou (333,000 TEU).

With projections that West Africa should reach 4.3 million TEU by 2021, with containers cargo expected to record a five per cent average annual growth, Ghana Shippers Authority fears the country could lose a significant chunk of its transit trade to Lome, Abidjan, and Cotonou if measures are not adopted to prevent diversion of transit goods before they reach their intended destinations in the various landlocked countries that use Ghanaian seaports.

Citing the Nigerian Shippers' Council executive secretary Hassan Bello, the Abuja Leadership's defence of the status quo, and the ongoing improvements in container handling at the Lagos ports downoplayed the external threat from rivals.

'Nigerian seaports because the ports are now efficient and effective,' said Mr Bello.

Mr Bello also stated that the actualisation of the Lekki deep seaport project would further consolidate the hub status.


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